Akira Yamada, Japan Ambassador to Mexico

Akira Yamada, Japan Ambassador to MexicoEditor’s Interview

Please tell us how close is the relationship between Mexico and Japan?

The relationship between Mexico and Japan is excellent. We have a friendly relationship with over 400 years of history. However, lately our relationship has been evolving, almost in an unusual way, getting closer. Therefore, our relation is good and is getting closer as time passes.

Japan and Mexico are important partners in several international forums such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, G-20 and the United Nations. Recently, the diplomatic exchange has developed considerably.

President Peña Nieto visited Japan in 2014 and the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Mexico as well. In 2015 the two presidents of both countries visited each other and strengthened the exchange with high level standards where our political and economic dialogue have various levels of contact being very active and with strong presence of the two countries in their diplomatic relations.

What is the current situation of the commercial relationship between Japan and Mexico?

Before mentioning our trade relations, I would expose the economic relations in general. Regarding bilateral trade, last year (2015) marked the tenth anniversary of the Economic Agreement between Mexico and Japan. Since the entry into force of this agreement in 2005, our bilateral trade has tripled and continues to grow.

But the most important item is the Japanese investment in Mexico, with the large increase of Japanese investment in Mexico. The number of Japanese companies in Mexico has doubled in five years. In 2009 there were 399 companies and by 2014 already recorded 814 Japanese companies in Mexico. We are now finding out the most current figure, but we assume that the number of Japanese companies in Mexico has reached 900 and soon will reach 1,000, because of the fact that our bilateral trade and investment continue on growing rapidly.

How do you grade the competitiveness of Mexico for Foreign Investment?

I think Mexico has favorable conditions for attracting foreign investments, including Japanese investments. There are several reasons or elements, such as having a stable political with an established democracy, its economic position is also stable and its trade policy is open to free trade having an extensive network of Free Trade Agreements with the world.

Mexico has good infrastructure with quality in its labor force. These elements are favorable for investment. Therefore, I think Mexico has very high competitiveness to attract foreign investment.

Which are the areas of opportunity that you see in terms to strengthen relations between Japan and Mexico?

Our relations are based on many fields: political, academic, economic, cultural, sports and so on. Especially our economic relations have grown. But I think there is still room for greater mutual exchange. For example I see great opportunity in the field of tourism in both directions. Mexico and Japan have many very attractive places for tourism and even though the number of Japanese visitors to Mexico has grown and vice versa, there is still space to implement tourism.

There are also opportunities in the cultural, academic, students and sport fields. Then there are many areas of opportunity to strengthen our relations.

What is your plan of action at the Embassy in terms to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Japan and Mexico?

As I said in previous answers, our relations are excellent, but there is still enough space to implement. One of my most important tasks is to increase the mutual exchange at any field and at any level. I personally want to attend several scenarios where Mexican and Japanese can strengthen ties between both countries.

In my speech on National Day in December last year I said that that I want to be “ajonjolí de todos los moles.” Then my plan of action is to promote, harness and use every opportunity to increase mutual exchange.

This has many elements. For example to Japanese investment in Mexico I want to strengthen the business environment and to promote Japanese companies and products in Mexico and vice versa.

What is the current situation for bilateral investment between Japan and Mexico?

Our investments in Mexico have increased especially in the last five years and this trend will continue. For example, during seminars about investing in Mexico, many Japanese businessmen want to attend such seminars and still show their interest in investing in Mexico.

Therefore, many Japanese companies established in Mexico have been very successful. There is a very strong growth in the Mexican economy as is in the businesses of Japanese companies. The current situation of Japan in Mexico is very favorable and the trend will continue.

What is missing is the Mexican investment in Japan. Unfortunately few Mexican companies invest in Japan. I hope more companies come to invest in Japan.

How do you grade Mexico´s Automotive Industry?

Now the growth of automotive industry is remarkable. Mexico is refereed as a strategic point of production in the automotive industry for many international companies, not only for Japanese companies.

Mexico has several positive aspects to attract investment in the auto industry. Recently Nissan opened a new factory. Mazda and Honda began also production in Mexico. Toyota will open up new operations at its factory to start by 2018. These large companies are accompanied with many auto parts companies.

Mexico in the auto industry has many opportunities. Furthermore Mexican companies are very competitive.

Japanese automotive companies have invested heavily in Mexico. These companies create jobs for Mexican workers. I also want to stress that Japanese companies put great importance to the training of workers. They also provide technology transfer.
I think the Japanese investment in the automotive industry provides jobs, technology and training.

Do you expect more Japanese investment to locate near the Bajio Region?

Yes, especially by the fact that our recent investments have focused on the “Bajío”. According to this increase in Japanese investments, the Japanese Government opened its new Consulate in Leon Guanajuato.

As I said, more Japanese companies are coming to Mexico. Although in the future they will diversify the regions, at the moment they come to the “Bajío”, especially by the time Toyota opens its new factory in Celaya, it will come accompanied with auto parts companies for Toyota. As I said, the trend of Japanese investment will continue to grow.

Which areas of opportunity are being seen by Companies from Japan to invest in Mexico?

Besides the automotive industry there are several areas of opportunity. First is the energy sector, especially in the electricity field, where Japanese companies have experience not only equipment but also for the production of electricity by taking advantage of the electricity reform.

As for the oil reform, several Japanese companies are interested in investing. I would like to add other industries in which Japan can participate. For example the pharmaceutical industry and medical devices are quite promising industries.
Some Mexicans say that Information Technology is a promising industry for Japanese investment in Mexico.

Any last comment for the MexicoNOW subscribers?

Our relations have very long history of over 400 years. Now, we experience excellent relations in the economic, cultural and political fields. I always say that better times will come, because our relations keep being developed.